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Older Adoption

Older Adoption

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open for comment.

No, I’m not talking about adopting a senior citizen, or even another human of any age. In six weeks or so it will be one year since I asked our veterinarian to come to our home and perform the last procedure for my canine companion, Plato.

I was inclined to wait a few weeks and then go out to adopt another dog in need of a home. In my mind that was in no way derogatory toward Plato; it was, to me, doing what he would have wanted me to do. But domestic bliss sometimes skates on thin ice and I have waited this long, though I did attempt to examine other dogs.

But during these ten months I’ve had health issues which magnify the question of what would happen to a new adoption were I to become incapacitated or even expire. Of course, this was never not an issue, especially during the many years I lived as a sole human and had dogs, horses, and a cat. I traveled extensively but always had someone “live in”, sometimes for weeks at a stretch. And they had complete instructions covering whom to contact and what to do should they be notified I could not return. Now that I’m as retired as one can be, given my career history, I must consider this issue from a different perspective. Do I want my canine companion to outlive me, or do I want to go through another difficult transition as I outlive them? When it comes to non-humans, I’m not the Angel of Death.

As I watch my 78th year creep toward me over the horizon, why would I adopt another dog? Physician relatives are unanimous in insisting it would be hugely beneficial. It would get me out and walking several times a day, get my mind off the looming disaster descending on our country, and provide a concrete outlet for the feelings I have toward dogs in need. All good reasons, and I’m sure someone can think of more. I have supported numerous organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of practically all life on the planet. But of the reasons I cited above I tend strongly to gravitate toward the last. I don’t like the feeling that I’m using another living being as a tool. As a military dog handler decades ago I worked daily to develop a cooperative relationship with my dog, working with him, not on him. I got in trouble for it, but my methods proved correct in the end.

So, I’m actively looking for a breed I already have experience with and have learned their particular ways of communication. They do have them, you know. Medium sized dogs fit the bill. I’ve never really connected with little dogs, especially with their common yapping and screaming. and very large dogs could prove too difficult to handle especially if coming across another neighborhood dog.

Now comes the question of age. Another puppy is out of the picture. That old commercial, “Don’t leave us with the baby!!!” comes to mind. Unfortunately, they are too needy and too destructive for me at this time in life. I do have a soft spot for “senior” dogs, as they are the least likely to be adopted out of dog pounds and even no-kill shelters. But often there is no history on those dogs, either medical, social, or destructive. So, I’m gravitating toward younger dogs in certified foster care. This usually affords a chance to see a dog in a home setting, perhaps checking for damage around the house, healing wounds or missing fingers on the foster parents, etc.. I would also have the opportunity to find out if the dog is food-aggressive, paw-aggressive (some will rip your hand off if you touch their paws) or dog-aggressive, such as in wanting to fight another dog encountered on a walk. Of course, some breeds are simply out of the running because homeowner’s insurance can be lost the day the company finds out you have one. Years ago I was turned down by a company when they asked if I had a dog and I said, “Yes. A Chow”. End of conversation. Dealing with a fostering rescue group can be far more expensive than a county shelter but getting these questions answered is worth it.

Until three years ago small children would not have entered into the calculus. But then nieces and nephews started getting married like they just heard about it and babies started appearing. While it’s unlikely they would come all the way to Atlanta, it is likely we would have to at some point travel to their neighborhoods. I really dislike leaving my dog in a kennel, though we have relied on a pretty good one during out-of-country travels. When possible, I bring my K-9 companion with me. Hotels and motels along the way are getting more dog friendly. So, the issue of a toddler pulling a tail must be kept in mind.

And speaking of pulling a tail, there’s the issue of allergens and grooming. I’ve had Siberian Huskies and was often told by vets they are “hypo-allergenic”. True, but they can shed whole blankets. Fortunately, I have a large enclosed deck which allows me to groom to my heart’s content. I used to feel slightly guilty about the large tufts of fur drifting through the neighborhood until I found out that several species of birds like to grab it for nest material. Now I just keep quiet if I see a jogger with strange tufts stuck to his or her running suit. The birds will follow them home.

Well, here we are. I hope you’ve had some interesting thoughts while getting this far. When I can figure out how to enclose a picture in this blog you will be among the first to pass judgment on my selection. But please have patience. When I interview a dog I go first to the spirit, not just the nose. If the spirit does not agree we part ways then and there.

Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

Over the past twenty years and more the United States has seen increasing evidence of White Power militancy and hoarding of weapons in preparation for some expected internecine conflict. But for most Americans almost all of the evidence has been viewed at a distance, presented in short news stories and the very occasional in depth coverage of such incidents as Ruby Ridge and Waco. The massive death toll at the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City was glossed over as the work of a couple of deranged individuals. And, particularly after the September 11, 2001 airline hijacking incident the public mind increasingly linked the concept terrorism with foreign Muslim. Meanwhile the White self-styled “militias” increasingly gained the status of heroes and patriots, a bit zealous perhaps but basically good guys.

During several of those early years I worked in a federal counter-terrorism program. But, unlike my superiors, my attention was centered on domestic evidence, threat levels, funding sources, and the ultimate question – Cui bono, usually rendered as “Who benefits?” Yet, my findings and concerns were ignored; the emphasis was instead on shoveling massive amounts of tax payer funds to States and Territories to militarize their police forces in anticipation of a foreign invasion of evildoer saboteurs and wild eyed suicidal terrorists. I eventually chose retirement and more involvement in college teaching.

It is interesting that as I write this the public is being informed of top level Department of Homeland Security attempts to suppress information and findings on the dangers and activities of domestic, predominantly White Nationalist Right Wing groups. More damning is the evidence that Left Wing groups are instead being falsely demonized. But again, these are news reports, seen by many people, internalized by some, ignored by others, and forgotten when prime time viewing airs the current episode of some meat market reality show, or some “crime” show in which the crime will be resolved in an hour.

However, just as I finished the paragraph above I got a notification that the FBI is issuing very serious warnings about the potential for armed violence at polling stations and State buildings on Election Day. The warnings cite high risk from armed Trump supporters trying to coerce voters and erupting in violence should it appear Trump is losing. But again, even with broad coverage on mainstream news, how many people bother with such news anymore?

Apparently, people are forming their opinions from some information sources. Just today it was disclosed that Trump wanted to fire a top level Dept. of Homeland Security official because the official stated for the media that Russia, not China or Iran, is the primary influencer in Trump’s favor. Oh, well, dictatorships control the news. That’s what they do. Maybe we should just get over it.

A couple of days ago I took a car trip. But before doing so I got the emissions check I need for a new license tag. As I flipped open my billfold to select a highly protected credit card the cashier at the auto inspection place, who looked like he just got out of prison, saw my Concealed Carry License. He said, “Joe Biden will take that away from you.” Not wanting a confrontation, I simply said, “I don’t think so.” He then launched into an NRA inspired soliloquy on how “They” would have to come and take his guns off his dead body. Since he had my address, a couple of miles from the shop, I passed on telling him to be careful what he wished for.

We then set off on a trip into the north Georgia “mountains”, not too far from home and just on the border with North Carolina. We selected old State roads over the newer Interstates, giving us a horrendously twisting, climbing passage on very narrow two lane roads but an up close view of “Deliverance” country. Yes, that movie was filmed in the area we were driving. I knew a couple of retired “Feds” who built houses in these woods and who told me, “Don’t piss off the locals”.

With 50 yards or less of forward visibility through the tree lined curves I watched the local mountain boys hurtle their huge and questionably maintained pickup trucks up and down the twisting road like Olympic bobsledders, wondering when our mirrors would clip. Watching those trucks I noticed most of them were festooned with Trump stickers, gun manufacturer logos, and rude messages. I don’t recall seeing Confederate flags.

Each time the road opened a bit we saw houses, some fairly nice and some not so. And, everywhere there was room we saw yard signs for Trump, messages from God, and American flags. At one intersection we saw our first local campaign sign: the candidate’s name over a very large picture of an AR-15. We got the message.

Finally we arrived at the town we wanted and found the apple orchard store we had come looking for. Everyone, including us, wore masks. Must all have been tourists. We spent over an hour getting bags of apples and various other items before loading up and searching for a place for a late lunch. We finally found one. Afterwards, while walking to the car a young couple was walking toward us, she was White and he was Black. He had his head down and looked rather apprehensive. But as he glanced up I nodded, looked him in the eye and said, “How are you doing?” He had a typical startle reaction but smiled and said, “Fine, thank you.” I guess he was expecting something else. In fact, judging by what I had seen in the area I felt that around this region the initials BLM mean Bureau of Land Management.

As we drove off we had to negotiate another few miles of twisting, blind two lane road to get to a major highway back to Atlanta. Coming up on a stop sign we saw a very large billboard advertising an independent pharmacy. The name and logo of the pharmacy were clearly presented over a line of large script which said: Drugs, Guns, Ammunition, Tags. All your shopping needs.

Great! We could load up on opioids, take our pick of guns and load them, and maybe get a tag or two for any “big game” we shot. Couldn’t ask for more. We wanted to photograph the sign, but several factors prevented that: A blind curve behind us meant some mountain boy in a pick-up truck would likely slam into us; there was no place to pull off the road without clearing some trees or driving into a ravine; the license tag on my vehicle is marked with an identifier for an affluent county bordering Atlanta; and, I didn’t feel like engaging in a shoot-out after such a nice lunch. But I do sincerely regret not being able to post the picture, which is still clear in my mind.

So what do we make of all this? Is this just an aberration, a sojourn into The Twilight Zone? Or is this Americana? I’ve lived in or traveled 49 of the 50 U.S. States, North Dakota being the only exception. While working in counter-terrorism I was in frequent contact with State counterparts throughout the U.S.. In several cases I was told that, no matter the attack or disaster, State personnel and vehicles would NOT be sent to certain areas, specifically large compounds of heavily armed self-styled militias and “religious” anti-government groups. “I’m not sending my people out there to get shot to pieces!” I completely agreed.

I’ve been “out of the business” (directly) for a while. But at my last check there were 750 such groups known to still be up and functioning, distributed throughout the entire United States. No State is without at least a few. But it’s important to realize and remember that these are the identifiable groups; they do not include the supporters and the sympathizers. Remember the Olympic bomber, Eric Robert Rudolph? He was a federal fugitive for five years. The public has been told he survived those years by camping in the woods, eating acorns and salamanders, and pilfering dumpsters. Having the training and experience that I do I would consider that possible. But that same training and experience make it very highly unlikely he survived those five years with no human contact. I have never accepted that. Any Agency profiler would tell you his motivations for his actions were fundamentally based in his need for human contact and recognition. Someone supported him, if by no other means than by providing appropriate clothing for the harsh winter seasons in the forest.

In the history of the Great Experiment in Democracy in this country there has always been the assumption that those who supported the losing side in an election would accept the results and try harder the next time. Frankly, I don’t see that happening this time. Some are saying that if Trump wins this could very well be the last free election this country sees. That may be an overstatement, but such an outcome would clearly usher in a dictatorship which, though emboldened to become more visible, has likely learned from others to veil itself in patriotism and religion.

I certainly do agree that this is the most important election of my lifetime. And so I ask again, please vote.

A Poem I Love

by

The following poem was written by Marco M. Pardi (this site’s author), and originally published in “Death: An Anthropological Perspective” @1977 University Press of America

Yesterday I was reminded of this beloved poem when I arrived at work to find new product in my store – lovely little living succulents and cacti planted in containers that look like pumpkins. I love this poem and have a difficult time reading it without tears.

The author has granted permission to share the textbook, even though he has often reminded me it was “written in a hurry.” Regardless, he is altogether too humble at times, especially in specific crafts such as his writing. It’s sadly not a very lengthy textbook, but the book’s author has been writing and sharing for several years on this very site.

I’m eternally grateful for Marco’s wisdom, knowledge, and experience shared both on this site and in the text – a text that remains quite relevant overall, even greater than four decades later.

       Once I happened to see my little daughter

running up the drive.

Her face looked homeward as she carried her toys,

all bundled in her arms.

Her visit with her playmate

had made the day bright.

A well used, but oh so precious china tea set

was carefully packed in a plastic jack-o-lantern,

swinging from a plastic handle.

Oh!  The lantern fell!  How?

The cheap handle cocked garishly

above the now still “pumpkin”

resting on the concrete drive,

A little person stopped …. 

and, bending over, stared …. 

her happy face,

in a timeless moment,

turned to ……. to what?

Sorrow? … Agony? … Loss?

But none of these could say it.

      How could I get there in time?

GODDAMN the existence of concrete!!

I must stop the hurt;

I must let her know it is unnecessary.

I ran to her and hugged her,

I told her I would fix it ….

it would be all right.

I had the best glue in the world!

We would work together!

And, she stopped crying …. 

her face slowly brightening.

I have seen death come from my own hands.

There has never been a glue …….

even hugs don’t really work.

                                     m. pardi

The Political Divide

The Political Divide

by Marco M. Pardi

The differences between the conservative and the radical seem to spring mainly from their attitude toward the future. Fear of the future causes us to lean against and cling to the present, while faith in the future renders us receptive to change.” Eric Hoffer. The True Believer.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open for comment.

Readers throughout the world will agree that all advanced nations have some fundamental document, usually referred to as a Constitution, which enshrines their core values. And, most if not all have mechanisms for formally altering that document should the need arise. But therein lies the rub.

Through most of my life I’ve heard the American political divide stated as Conservative versus Liberal. In the 1960’s, we endlessly heard the term Radical. In recent years we are increasingly hearing the term Progressive. I have never identified as a member, official or merely sympathizer, of any such group. But the question remains: Who’s who?

Until John Kennedy came along my family was knee-jerk Republican, which meant Conservative. Unsatisfied with labels I looked into the values and feelings of that group. And I found what I felt were deep and irreconcilable contradictions. For starters, it seemed the conservatives were dedicated to conserving the values enshrined in the American Constitution without consideration of the accelerating pace of change in every aspect of our lives. Yes, there is a long train of Amendments, but they were grudgingly won in protracted court battles often long after the original petitioners are dead.

But then, as I was growing up in the extremely repressive 1950’s under a “conservative” administration, I noticed that, while “Freedom” was the mantra, there were book and film bannings in several cities and public libraries, words that could not be said and scenes that could not be shown on television, “Public Service” films on television which relegated women to a status about equal to a household appliance and children to indentured servants. “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, which was to be recited with vigor at the start of each school day, whether you believed in a god or not and whether, as I had, you took that oath at your Naturalization Hearing thinking it was a solemn and once in a lifetime oath. (I tried explaining to a teacher that when I took that oath I did not know it had to be renewed every day. Oh, that went well.) In short, the core value of “Liberty for all” was directly contradicted by everyday life.

These contradictions were far more apparent when we looked at the rules and regulations aimed at personal life, such things as sodomy laws, cohabitation laws, abortion laws, etc., versus corporate life and making a profit. Corporations of every type fought hard against every attempt to promote and develop consumer safety, such as in vehicle design; consumer health, such as clean air and clean water regulations; food safety, and the list goes on. In every case the conservative mantra was Deregulate, just as it is today in the conservative camp. Buyer Beware applies today almost as much as ever.

It’s strange that for the last few years conservatives have been praising the “good old days” of the 1950’s when, in the 1950’s, people of the same political and social orientation were praising the “good old days” of a mythical frontier past. Nothing like a good old Tom Mix “western” movie, or a Hopalong Cassidy cowboy series on a Saturday morning. Shoot the bad guys, save the helpless damsel, ride off into the sunset. All without indoor plumbing. The “good old days” meme is less common today, but the drive to squelch advancements in science on every front – except where there is profit to be made, is alive and well.

I didn’t hear the term Liberal much in the 1950’s. I did hear “egghead”, “pointy headed professors” and other pejoratives aimed at anyone who dared to publicly think aloud. They were the “ivory tower” types, probably lurking on elite college campuses and plotting to subvert our virginal youth with their talk of the United Nations and other “world government” cabals. But if there could be anything which drew me to listen and learn, it was people who dared to think aloud.

Now, I should not give the impression I agreed with everything proposed by the Liberal voices. I thought some of it was naive, and even a few steps from self destructive. For example, I watched the rise of communes, and their all but certain demise as they gallantly refused order in favor of “doing your own thing”. But those fledgling efforts were fringe groups, lacking the DNA to grow and replicate. However, what the larger society missed was the principle underlying these efforts: the realization that “It Takes a Village……” and that village is global. When people crow that the United States is the most powerful nation on Earth they must equally realize that powerful nations render effects far beyond their borders. And those effects have consequences. No nation stands for long atop the mound if their actions, or inactions, erode and weaken the very mound upon which they stand. And being the world’s number one exporter of arms, the number one exploiter of all non-renewable resources, and the sole deserter from international accords while it pursues its “Do your own thing” mentality in profit making is simply a version of an imploding commune writ large.

Admittedly, the shift from the largely mythical history of the United States toward being a responsible member of the world community will not happen quickly. But then, quick solutions have themselves become the expectations of too many Americans. In saying the liberal position favors forward thinking while the conservative position favors (often false) memory I am reminded of how I explain the bedrock of science. Science does not advance only by re-inventorying what we’ve known; it advances by asking what do we not know. This brings us up to date with the Progressive movement we are now hearing more of. The title itself should clarify the operant ethic: Progress, but carefully defined and carefully developed.

I remember an ad from the 1950’s, “Progress is Our Most Important Product.” And I remember thinking at the time, But what if what we have works? Progress for the sake of progress leads to abuses, such as charging more for a product simply because it has been redesigned with no clear benefit from doing so. Our politics are a product of our society and while we must be adaptive to new realities we must be equally careful to reject change for the sake of change. This has never been more obvious than in the 2016 Presidential election.

And so, when considering the buffet of political groups on offer, what happens when the diner finds nothing on the table fully appealing? Does she go away hungry, choosing not to vote? Or is she drawn to that sideboard in the corner, the one with the narrow selection called Third Party, or Independent, or Green Party, or whatever is fashionable these days?

Frankly, when I hear of people casting their votes for outliers I think of someone who is asserting a personal position at the cost of a national vote. In other words, throwing away a vote just to feel better. Yes, making a statement is important. But only if someone is listening. Votes cast on the fringe deplete those which could have been cast for a viable candidate, and sometimes contribute to a “spoiler” effect. Votes cast for a statement of principle may be personally satisfying, but masturbation never gave birth to anything.

Democracy has its flaws but totalitarian Fascism is unimaginably worse. In the 2020 election cycle the choice has never been clearer. A common saying in the voting season is, “Hold your nose and make your choice”. Of course, the message is that rarely, if ever, does a candidate or party completely satisfy a thinking voter; there will be areas of disagreement. But the election of 2016 undeniably demonstrated that the United States is running low on thinking voters, or those who can and do think are simply walking away.

Even if you are not eligible to vote, please think, and think aloud. And if you are eligible to vote, please do so in a thoughtful way.

Lipreading in the Age of Covid-19

Lipreading in the Age of Covid 19

by Marco M. Pardi

Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything” Laurence Stern. Tristam Shandy. 1767

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. Registration as a follower, which is free, is recommended for those wishing to comment. All previous posts are open for comment.

Read my lips. No new taxes.” So said George H.W. Bush while accepting the Republican nomination for President at the Republican National Convention on August 18th, 1988. We did. And what did we get? New taxes.

While George’s words came back to him in the next election, they should not be called outright lies. Instead, they were more likely a simple display of lack of foresight; he had little idea of the quicksand his policies were developing and how they would inevitably swallow him. So even after eight years serving as our de facto President while the former actor Ronald Reagan watched his old movies, napped, and read his lines as directed, G.H.W. Bush was unable to carry out his official four year term without facing reality.

This time is different. We have a carnival barker for a president, a man for whom several “fact checkers” have documented in excess of 20,000 outright lies or deceptive statements since taking office. It would seem the fact checkers could dramatically lighten their load by switching to documenting the vanishingly rare truthful statements that may have inadvertently escaped him.

Most of Trump’s lies are so transparent they need no in-depth analysis. More concerning, however, are seemingly casual statements which go unchallenged. For example, his administration has pushed through a record number of right wing extremists to appointments as federal judges. Most of these have been below public scrutiny. But in more high profile appointments Trump routinely claims he has known the person for a very long time and has admired his work. Two questions should immediately arise: When selecting a person in a far flung region of the United States how does a five or six time bankrupt real estate grifter from New York City know this person “for a very long time”? Trump was a registered Republican in 1987. But between then and 2015 he switched his party five times, from Republican to Democrat to Independence Party of New York and back and forth as the wind blew. So how does a person with no firm and long lasting political convictions “admire the work” of anyone for a “very long time”?

It seems to me the answers are obvious. He has no idea who these people are and no idea of their judicial record. What he does have an idea of is the desire of the cabal of neo-fascists who are using him to further their own ends. They prevented his removal from office subsequent to his impeachment, thereby interrupting what should have been his frog-march into a Southern District of New York criminal court on bank fraud and tax evasion charges. Donald J. Trump is merely the mask hiding the lips of the ultra-right neo-fascist party which has been masquerading as the Republican Party since the late 1970’s. Unfortunately, unlike the surgical masks worn during this pandemic, the mask known as Trump will far more likely infect people than protect them. That seems to be the reason his party dd not dispose of him when he was impeached.

Who are the other players in this Kabuki theater? Actually, though they may not realize it, the rest of the planet has existential stakes in the coming presidential election. On one measure alone, impact on the environment, the neo-fascist party has already rolled back or eliminated every safeguard put in place by previous administrations. Some Americans may dream of escaping this nightmare by moving to some far off country. But the reality comes home quickly enough when air currents from unregulated U.S. industries, energy conglomerates, and motor vehicles bring particulates which alter worldwide weather patterns and poison those often advertised exotic springs from which so many people derive their over priced bottled water.

More specifically, both the American National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have found that the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU), Russian Military Intelligence, is using a hacking tool code named “Drovorub” to break into an operating system used across many computer server infrastructures. The specific team identified is the 85th Main Special Service Center (GtsSS) and the military unit is 26165. The Chinese are also separately involved but, unfortunately, the Ministry of State Security, the Guoanbu, is practically opaque to Western Intelligence. And, of course, the Iranians are in the mix. The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, more easily referenced as the VAJA, is deeply entrenched in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to name a few countries.

The Russian intent, as made clear by Vladimir Putin, is much more targeted than his directed efforts at disrupting the 2016 elections; the intent is specifically to ensure that America’s most incompetent and dangerous president is re-elected. Putin has been, and is being quite candid about this. On the other hand, China has made it clear that they “favor” a Joe Biden presidency.

How is it that two totalitarian States have such different outcomes in mind? For starters we can say that each and every Putin wish has been granted at least partially if not fully. From the start of Trump’s presidency there have been serious questions of whether Russia holds extremely damaging “kompromat” on Trump, making him a 21st Century version of The Manchurian Candidate.

China, on the other hand, holds massive American debt. A three millennia long player in international trade and politics, China plays the long game, knowing that delayed payment is better than no payment because your debtor is defunct. And, the debt can always be played to extort concessions from the United States in the Pacific Region. For this to work, the debtor country must have stable and sane leadership, not an unpredictable and pathologically ill President – even if he is only a mouthpiece for an equally ill cabal.

So, as we move toward the countdown to elections we are likely to see the thoughts and tactics of Hitler and Goebbels put once again into action: In his excellent book, The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard J. Evans quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, that good propaganda speaks to feelings and not reason and that “it should never admit a glimmer of doubt in its own claims, or concede the tiniest element of right in the claims of the other side”. Sound familiar? It should. It is the daily lip-synch from the Oval Office.

Of course, it must be obvious whom I will vote for, but the critical task ahead of those of us who care is to help others understand what they will be hearing and seeing over the next couple of months. In her excellent book, The End of America, Naomi Wolf advises us that, “Dictatorships specialize in faking news and falsifying documents. Hitler wrote that ‘all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand.’… To back up its disinformation campaigns, such regimes often rely on false documents. These counterfeit documents often assert that there is a threat to the home population.” Does “The Deep State” come to mind?

Trump himself has given his blessings to the Q-Anon cult. This mixed confederation gave us the famous claim that the Clintons were running a child abduction and sexual slavery ring out of the basement of New York pizza parlor. An armed man drove several hundred miles to rescue the children, charging into the place and shooting up the store only to find there was no basement. That’s the power of repeated propaganda.

In all fairness, the word propaganda began as a neutral term. It simply means to propagate or dispense or disseminate an idea or claim; it does not in and of itself indicate the claim is true or false. However, over the years the word itself has become a pejorative. If someone wants to label the claim of another as ipso facto false, they label the claim “propaganda”, and it does the job. So while lips will be moving all around us as they voice claims, it will be up to us to read them and determine their veracity.

In the hands of amateurs propaganda can be amusing. A current example is the intense television video depicting Joe Biden as responsible for needlessly ruining the lives of thousands by initiating and supporting Draconian laws which put many in prison for unjustly lengthy terms. The video was directly aimed at the African-American population. But then the Black Lives Matter demonstrations captured the news nationwide and, though it was obvious that agent provocateurs (a time-worn Republican tactic) infiltrated the demonstrations and fomented the violence and burning, many people became concerned over the call to defund the police. Actually, defund was a poor choice of words, like global warming instead of climate change. The philosophy of defunding was aimed at reducing the police capabilities to arm themselves with military hardware appropriate to invasion of another country and redirecting that funding toward increased training and community outreach. But, like global warming, the term stuck.

(The original video depicting Biden as a law and order zealot has been pulled from the airwaves. It would have directly contradicted the next false message.)

Suddenly, the Republican propaganda machine shifted to depicting Joe Biden as favoring defunding and even eliminating police (he certainly does not, and has said so repeatedly). Now we are bombarded with claims that a Biden election will bring chaos, anarchy, the end of civilization, insurmountable danger to our children, and other unpleasant disasters. But the fact is that Trump himself initiated efforts to monetarily defund police across the nation to the tune of half a billion dollars. Biden is against monetary defunding, Trump is for monetary defunding, but the propaganda still plays to the fears and ignorance of the population.

Ultimately, the ability to read lips and discern the meaning comes from sound and developed education. Our national pause as we contend with Trump’s utterly failed management of the pandemic response has hopefully afforded many the time and opportunity to better prepare themselves for the decision they will render in November. If you are eligible to do so, please vote.

The planet you save may be your own.

Into The Void

by Dana Renee

last night she didn’t sleep a bit

don’t worry she’ll be fine

but once again she’s in the pit

(the void shaped like your mind)

 

no other mind will ever do

no things can satisfy

no drug is ever shaped like you

the shape that gets her high

 

it’s not her fault she never knew

she didn’t know her brain

could dig a hole shaped just like you

then fill it up with pain

 

the Special Interest far beyond

a train, a plane, a map

sometimes she wants a magic wand

to free her from your trap

 

a bump, a drink, some tears, a song

yet nothing filled the hole

it’s good it’s bad it’s right it’s wrong

confusion takes a toll

 

most times content but later sad

her tears mixed up with joy

then discontent with feelings glad

the muse the fan the toy

 

it’s not your fault you couldn’t know

you’ll never know her brain

or places she thought she might go

or wishes wished in vain

 

she’s better now yet not today

today she’s in the throes

of thoughts that will not go away

so to your mind she goes

 

she looks and waits and lives for word

your words can soothe her soul

and leave her feeling reassured

(but words can’t make her whole)

 

Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s Remorse

by Marco M. Pardi

I regret nothing, says arrogance; I will regret nothing, says inexperience.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach. Aphorisms

All comments are welcome and all previous posts are open for comment.

In the past few months I’ve read, seen, and personally heard a remarkable number of seemingly otherwise intelligent people expressing regret for having voted an utterly incompetent con man and fraud into the Presidency of the United States. I say seemingly otherwise intelligent because I’m mystified by why they would have bought into the lies and deception and voted that way in the first place. But then, many of these people were “single issue voters”, as in the “Right to Life” crowd – a vile misnomer which should read “Right to Birth” – who hoped this candidate would end abortion and even contraception. In essence, their magical belief in the full humanness of a fertilized egg helped elect an administration with social, military, environmental, anti-science, and foreign affairs policies that doom millions to an early death while destroying the lives of countless species on this planet. Of course, there were other agendas as well, such as those who hated Hillary Clinton but could not articulate a single coherent reason why.

There have been many articles and books published on why we vote the way we do, even strongly against our own best interests. Yet, distilling population data down to the individual with whom you are speaking still leaves a void. I perceive that void as the individual psyche, an amorphous cloud of emotions, biases, prejudices, and beliefs hopefully overseen by a governing body of rational thought. But what happens when the governing body loses its grip?

I’m not a psychologist, although one of the federal agencies for which I worked classified me as “psychological anthropologist” so I could travel widely and freely doing what I do best. But after seven decades of observing and listening I am still occasionally surprised when I hear someone I “know” say, “Well, I voted for Trump but I won’t again.” Is it the person of Trump they are disillusioned with, or have they realized the agenda of the people who ushered Trump into place? A few simple and non-threatening questions often bring out the answer, and usually it is the former: disillusionment with the man. Typically, they didn’t give much thought, if any, to the horde of flesh eating parasites hiding in Trump’s shadow, even after so many of them were dragged into the sunlight and dismissed and/or convicted.

That leaves me with the feeling that this now remorseful person remains vulnerable to the next demagogue that group of parasites loquaciously props in front of us. In sum, no great epiphany has occurred, the person with whom I’m speaking remains the same. So how do we reach the multitudes still out there?

In the early years of the Viet Nam misadventure we tried the “Hearts and Minds” approach, attempting to sway the South Vietnamese population to see us as allies and friends. The Tip of the Spear was the military group known as the Green Berets. Trained in the local language, field medicine, and the fundamentals of the culture, they quickly gained the sobriquet “Armed Anthropologists”. Well, we saw how well that worked out.

But it wasn’t an ill informed policy. Years earlier we saw how the failed Presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson was brought down by common sentiment labeling him as “effete, an egghead”, and other aspersions directed at his intelligence. Clearly, an appeal to the collective intellect of the American voters was doomed at birth. An appeal to where the voters “lived”, that is, to their feelings, beliefs and emotions, may have worked far better. Facts and logic cannot gain traction in a vacuous mind. The Stevenson campaign failed to recognize that.

We saw repeatedly throughout Donald Trump’s campaign rallies that he aimed for the heart, not the head. As he strutted before his audiences the camera panned over seas of vapid, pre-orgasmic faces waiting suspensefully for his next inane, titillating claim. And the show went on.

Even now, though the rallies have dwindled in attendance for various reasons, the effects are manifest in the numbers of people refusing to wear masks during a nationwide, indeed worldwide pandemic. We so often hear the mythical refrain, “It’s about my personal freedom”, a core value in American life. But it’s not about personal freedom; it’s about one’s sense of responsibility to others. However, that calls for an exercise in logic, albeit simple, and those neural cells are just not active, if there at all.

About a year ago some in-laws and friends came for a visit. We had a mixture of three different languages represented and the accents were quite thick, sometimes making it easier to just drift into another language. One asked me why, after years of speaking English, she still spoke with an accent whereas I had none. I explained the large and universally flexible neural network associated with speech and how, in early speech development, our significant others reward some sounds and discourage others thus rewarding some neural pathways and allowing all the others to fall into disuse and become difficult to bring into use. Essentially, why children are more able to successfully become multi-lingual than are adults. I think the same applies, to some degree, in the development of other – directed logical thinking versus self – directed emotional feeling. If we do not stress thinking of others to children we must not be surprised when they grow into an adult who thinks only of his own wants and needs versus those of others. And I think this applies to “anti-vaxers” and anti-abortion/contraception people as well. In their mythical and magical little worlds they fail to see the damage they do to others, becoming reservoirs for disease, allowing their children to be at risk, and relegating women to the status of brood mares while at the same time voting to cut social and financial support to the resulting children.

Just as we take our time with children as they learn to form and properly employ words, we must do so with the development of logical thought and the calculation of consequences. In fact, this practice would be helpful in immediate ways as children enter school. For example, mathematics is logic expressed as numbers. Of course, the process of learning takes time but the earlier we start the easier it will be. I remember when high schools offered courses such as Home Economics. These should be reinstated nationally as required courses which include in depth learning about the environmental and social impacts and costs of products used in our everyday homes. Sex Education should be taught in every school with an emphasis on contraception and the long term costs of raising a child.

Admittedly, enrolling a formed adult in this process presents far greater challenges. Certainly, the easier course would be to claim these people are beyond repair and just hope the next generation corrects the problem. But the very existence of the next generation is mortally threatened by the actions of this one. There will be those we are tempted to give up on – “He’ll never change…” – and there will be those whose expressed logic is still heavily accented with personal biases, prejudices, and beliefs. But there are ways to start. One simple starting point is with the advertising industry. The messaging has to change from, Do you want this to Do you need this. Every item or consumable over a certain dollar amount must carry an equal time message stating its long term cost, the environmental cost of its production, transport and storage, and the social impact of these costs.

Churches that teach the “Prosperity Gospel”, that some God wants you to be rich and prosper, should be fully taxed in amounts commensurate with the damage to society and the environment their nonsensical myths are bringing. There are no socially redeeming qualities in the wanton destruction of the environment.

So, I recoil internally when I hear someone express remorse over having voted for the voracious locusts now holding most of the power in this country. Far more than what these late-comers feel, I want to know what they will do. I think two of the most overly used words in any language are, “I’m sorry”. Show me, don’t tell me. As the old Hollywood adage goes, Talk’s cheap.

“You Gotta Be Kidding Me!”

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!”

by Dana Renee

This is a Guest Column posted by a woman I’ve known for several years. I assure Readers that comments are welcome and that, although this woman is demonstrably able to stand in her own defense, the decorum for this site will be strictly enforced.

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!”

By Dana Renee

 

I’m autistic. Before you begin to think you’re supposed to feel sorry or sad for me, please don’t. I like being different. Perhaps more importantly, I like knowing I’m autistic. I’ve heard that “knowledge is power.”  If that’s true, I’ve never felt more powerful than in the past year since I was diagnosed.  After four decades of perplexing social situations, along with my own memories, emotions, behaviors, and thoughts, I can finally begin to relax and determine what all of this means for me.  Being autistic is the reason I possess a hyper-focus that has both helped and endangered me depending on the circumstances.  Thankfully, I’m now more aware of the latter, although I can still lose sight about everything going on around me.  ASD is also why I have special interests that can be extraordinarily fixated, and the list has included at least one person I know who is immensely fascinating and brilliant.  Further yet, ASD is often the reason I miss the punchline of jokes, especially if the joke is verbose, or worse – exclusively sarcastic.  Why is sometimes saying the opposite of what we mean supposed to be considered “funny?”

Thankfully, knowing what makes me different has eliminated 100% of the confusion about my identity, and some of the confusion about the way humans behave.  I no longer waste valuable hours after work anxiously analyzing social interactions over and over again.  Today I try to quickly file away baffling circumstances, striving to release and forget them. There’s a good chance any other parties involved have little concern about them, so why should I?  Sometimes I still rely on support from others, and I’m always grateful for their help.  I will always maintain there is no such thing as overthinking, but I’d rather enjoy my interesting thoughts than lie awake all night worrying about human interactions from the previous day.  A wise and very dear friend once told me, “Don’t create plots.”  I’ve tried adhering to this advice which has undoubtedly helped me.  But knowing why I was so often creating plots will continue to ensure I don’t write the wrong stories.

This new, profound knowledge about myself has drastically reduced anxiety and eliminated moments of paranoia.  For decades I lived with a pervasive feeling I was always doing or saying something “wrong” in social situations.  In those moments I was probably just being myself.  I can still become confused about the way someone is treating me, but my true self innately sees the best in others just as it did during my early childhood.  My goal is to continue walking the path of self-awareness so I can improve relationships with others, chiefly in the workplace. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not a mental illness or learning disability.  Around 50% of autistic people or more have above average intelligence, and many are what we might regard as geniuses.  Determining numbers is quite complicated because so many are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, especially women and girls.  Further, ASD isn’t a “condition” that can ever be cured, nor does it need to be.  There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and autism, and for good reason.  Do autistic behaviors really need to be improved/suppressed/corrected, or are some merely bothersome to others and thus “supposed” to be changed in some way?

Could I actually be more “normal” than the atypical person?  I’ve been called eccentric, obsessive, odd, weird, quirky, nerdy, dorky, crazy, nutty, and other similar adjectives much of my life.  I’ve been given a host of nicknames since early childhood, including Walking Encyclopedia, Motor Mouth, Rain Man, and Safety Sam.  While I consider a few of those descriptions complimentary, sometimes they were probably meant to be insulting.  I’m often perceived as rude or “bitchy” (the latter is highly offensive and misogynistic) when I’m merely communicating a fact in my preferred tone and in what I’ve decided will be language clearly comprehensible.  This has been a regular work-related issue that has even led to termination, although with dedicated documentation on two occasions I was able to win my case with the Department of Labor.  

I’ve also discovered I’m highly skilled at masking who I am in order to survive, including the immediate adoption of a dialect and accent wholly different from my own when I was just fourteen years old.  Interestingly, I was able to relinquish the accent easily after a year or so.  Three years after that I moved to another Southeastern U.S. location and deliberately neutralized my lifelong Midwestern Canadian accent.  My reason for doing so was an effort to avoid wearisome teasing by Americans.  It worked well.  I have no doubt that with practice I could master pronunciation of other languages even this late in life.  I can adeptly change a lot about myself quite literally overnight for other people’s benefit, including my own.  

But I’ve learned just how damaging camouflaging can be to my well-being if that becomes my focus when engaging with other human beings.  Camouflaging’s long list has included pretending to find offensive jokes funny in order to “fit in,” or feigning joke comprehension where there is none.  And I sometimes have so much empathy that I weakly laugh at an offensive joke to avoid hurting the storyteller’s feelings, even though they were clearly at risk for offending others.  Masking can be exhausting, confusing, and anxiety-producing for me.  

Rather than a condition or disability, many of us argue ASD is our entire identity first, but also a gift.  Some, including Greta Thunberg and me, also maintain it is a superpower under certain circumstances.  She and I are fortunate we can communicate our thoughts and feelings; this doesn’t apply to everyone on the Spectrum.  While I am not “disabled,”  there are many who do have additional needs and cannot support themselves financially or care for themselves in other ways.  But we are all In There, even if so many are unable to make their needs known to other people.  I’m so fortunate I can work, live independently, and indicate when I require minor accommodations at home with others, or at work in order to survive.

Being autistic means I experience the world quite differently than neurotypical people do, and in many ways I would argue seeing, hearing, and feeling things differently is often better and a lot of fun sometimes.  Admittedly, I can experience extremely intense feelings about a lot of things.  Some of those things can frustrate, annoy, or overload me on a sensory level:  songs, scents, hues, lights, noise, textures, even humans, human touch, or sounds humans make.  I cannot eliminate those sensitivities; but I’m finally learning strategies for managing them. 

Conversely, the same things can bring such happy feelings I can barely contain myself:  songs, scents, hues, lights, sounds, textures, and some of the things humans have the ability to do.  This certainly isn’t the end of the list.  But If I detest something I really detest it, and if I like something, I really like it!  So while ASD comes with a number of challenges and sensitivities for me, it also provides a wealth of mirth, wonder and awe directly attributed to the so-called “disorder.”  

Several weeks ago I read an aphorism about sarcasm on a T-shirt.  I no longer recall the phrase in exact detail, but I didn’t find it humorous.  It did provoke thought, and I do love to think!  Since the T-shirt contained a living human, I can only surmise the person inside the shirt found the aphorism witty or intelligent.  In not so many words, it claimed sarcastic people are clever, and those who don’t get sarcasm are stupid.  So was the wearer indeed a clever person, or basically stupid for not only supporting the idea printed on the shirt, but also projecting that to others? 

Sometimes I ponder how many times over my lifetime I’ve asked, “Are you serious, or are you joking?”  

If I don’t know someone, I don’t necessarily have a baseline for their sense of humor, especially if it relies on sarcasm.  Even with a baseline or having known someone for many years (such as my own millennial children), I may still miss the meaning or even mistakenly feel “tricked.”  When a joke is too long by my standards or contains irrelevant details, my mind often wanders whether I’m reading or listening to it.  By the time I get to the punchline, I might be off to a far away place.  Sorry, joke-tellers – sometimes I just don’t “get it.”  This doesn’t bother me; I have gifts other than understanding certain brands of humor.  Some jokes, delivered to me by way of human beings in my presence, have instantly put me in tears because I didn’t know the person was being sarcastic or “just kidding.”  

Other “jokes” have been intentionally cruel, such as one delivered by a male co-worker who was harassing and stalking me out on the yard and in the office at a large plant nursery for nearly two years.  Knowing how much I love non-human animals, he and several other employees preyed on my sensitive, sometimes gullible nature.  Approaching me outside one day with a precious little box turtle he had found, he “hurled” the turtle in front of a group of redneck landscapers and me.  They all erupted into raucous laughter as I simultaneously shrieked in horror and began running in the direction I thought the turtle was thrown.  Then I burst into tears for the turtle, and realized the “joke” was on me.  I was immensely relieved to see the poor little turtle still in his hand.  Yet as with many workplace pranks staged for my “benefit” over the years, I was told, “It was only a joke; lighten up!” 

I’ve heard commands similar to “lighten up” much of my adult life.  And this was yet another job that bit the dust.  The cold, apathetic manager was a person who treated the hostile work environment as his daily soap opera, seemingly enjoying the turmoil and drama.  Despite having two mouths to feed other than my own as a single parent, I finally mustered the courage to resign.  It wasn’t the first time I had done this, and it wouldn’t be the last.  Sometimes I simply walk out of a job, never to return.  The joke’s on them at times, too. 

If you’re wondering about the title of this essay, it was inspired by an interaction with a customer as he checked out at my cash register yesterday.  The card reader has a “round up to the nearest dollar” element with donations benefiting a children’s charitable organization.  Sometimes rounding up means donating just one cent.  Not everyone has the ability or desire to donate for various reasons, and I try not to speculate why.  But during this particular transaction, the customer’s total ended with .99.  He was someone I’d never before met, and I asked him if he’d like to round up and donate a penny to a local children’s hospital.  This portion of sometimes >100 transactions per shift is part of what mentally exhausts me by the end of the day.  His response was, “A penny?!  You gotta be kidding me!”  

He was joking.

I misunderstood both the meaning and his intent, which was strictly to make me laugh.  Instead, I thought he was seriously offended by the amount, assuming he was a miserly grump who doesn’t care about the children!  My eyes immediately filled with tears behind my fogged up, yellow safety glasses and mask.  I doubt he saw the tears, but I think he must have immediately noticed my confusion.  He sincerely apologized, saying, “I’m so sorry; I was trying to make you laugh!”  I then burst into mirthful laughter, both at my foibles and the absurdity of anyone being offended at donating a penny.  My laughter diffused the situation as it often does and often will.  I’m smiling as I write these final sentences.  And while I refuse to rely on self-deprecating humor anymore, much like the very humorous, thoughtful comedian Hannah Gadsby, I can still find humor in the situations.  And although as an autistic person I require no medication, sometimes laughter is indeed the best medicine.


Tough Love

Tough Love

by Marco M. Pardi

If you are visited by pain, examine your conduct.” TALMUD. Rabbinical writings.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are also open for comments. This post might inspire those who have not previously commented to do so. It is strongly suggested that, if you have not registered as a follower, you do so as it makes posting comments easier for you. And, your comments are less likely to go into the roughly 600 SPAM emails I receive daily, mainly from Russians with erectile dysfunction.

I should have read the Talmud before beginning school. Paddled by nuns, pounded by monks, I took a while to review and restructure my oblique deviousness and make it into a successful career. But those injuries healed long ago. And, without doubt, many would agree I must have learned something from them. Which brings me to the pains of the present day and what lessons may be learned therein.

I’ve written several times of the recent developments in the United States, chiefly the emergence of the decades old American Fascist Party now dressed as Republicans. And, I’ve written of the increasing global threats to most life forms as these same people dominate the industries which, for their short term economic gain, are polluting and killing this planet beyond repair. But some readers might wonder how else I spend my day.

I subscribe to and/or belong to at least fifty organizations ranging from medicine to politics, science to environmental and animal rights, and national and international social issues. Consequently I receive hundreds of emails daily, about half of which enable me to take action in some form. Careful to avoid sitting too long at a stretch, I pace myself with two to three hours dealing with these emails interspersed with other activities. So, I average a bit over six hours daily reading and engaging where I can. But lately something has been developing in my consciousness: More than just the nagging thought that many of my petitions and carefully crafted letters fall on blind eyes, or never reach the addressed person anyway (my State is firmly Republican; every meaningful state office is in those hands), I’ve begun to wonder if trying so hard to help people is in fact enabling the problems from which they are suffering.

I have always reacted on behalf of the dis-empowered, be they human or non-human. Very early in my college teaching career I was the age of the average student. That, and my subject matter, encouraged students to seek my advice and, sometimes, help in personal matters. One student was having an ongoing battle with alcohol. He and his mother were quite poor and his mother was disabled. Several times his mother, or a friend, called me to come over and talk him through another bout. And, several times I took him to county detox to get dried out.

But then a young woman came to me and asked if I would accompany her to an Al-Anon meeting. She was afraid to go alone. It was at that meeting that I first heard the concept of “Enabling”. I was so stricken by the clarity and sense that the next time I got that call to talk Xxxx through a bout I told his friend and his mother to just lock him out of the house. They did. Not long after, he enlisted in the Army and got straightened out. He was not the only one I “closed the door” on. Al-Anon also said a person has to recognize and acknowledge they have a problem. And for some, that comes only when they “hit bottom”.

Almost 20 years later, after working in field epidemiology for just over six years, I transferred into research at the Atlanta headquarters of the Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. I had been working in Public Health clinics in several cities, dealing with cases of sexually transmitted diseases. The research division I entered in Atlanta dealt with HIV/AIDS. So, the physicians I worked with were curious about my work background. Most of them had no idea CDC posted clinicians around the country to deal with STDs. And, they were appalled that the services provided were not only absolutely free, but must be provided even if the patient refused to disclose his or her sexual contacts. I heard a very resounding chorus of “ENABLING” from my gathered colleagues. They were outraged. What they said was perfectly logical, and all I could offer in return was that these policies were effective in getting people to come in for treatment and that we did manage to treat a good percentage of contacts. Contact tracing. But, I did have to admit that a very high percentage of patients were multiple repeat infections who knew they had a free “fixer” at their nearby clinic.

But this was a few levels up from letting a repeat drunk sleep it off in the bushes. I thought about the daily parade of hostile patients, the times I, and others under my supervision, got assaulted, the “You gotta treat me” expressed by so many, and the intense pressure from state and federal levels to “crank out the numbers”. I thought about how my most dire, and I thought effective, warnings to patients apparently meant nothing as I saw them again and again. And then I thought of the babies born with congenital syphilis. I thought of the unsuspecting sex partners now infected with HIV, for which there was no treatment in sight at that time, the babies born addicted to drugs and condemned to lives in this morass we call the “underserved populations”. Alcoholics Anonymous, a blatant religious cult despite its denials, preaches of a “spiritual awakening”. What, if anything, would awaken these people?

And so, as I write this, I have an email page open to the hundreds of emails I receive daily. Many of them are from environmental and animal welfare groups I’ve subscribed to and supported for many years. Others are from social issue and political groups I’ve subscribed to in the past few years. How many petitions will I sign and send today? Probably close to one hundred. How many letters will I craft to politicians, from the President down to the local dog catcher? Probably a dozen or more. And how many petitions for increased financial aid to the now unemployed, and those about to be evicted, and those with dwindling food supplies, and whatever other crisis is put before me will I sign and send today? I don’t know. My keyboarding fingers, 5 out of 10, are slowing as I wonder if I’m not ENABLING the “I’m aboard, pull up the ladder” mentality of those who voted the current regime into power, those who were in their “comfort zone” and so couldn’t be bothered to vote and those who voted the “Tea Party” and other sociopaths into Congress before bothering to find out they were distinctly unqualified, those who openly committed to making the Presidency of a Black man a failure even if their actions brought the country down around them. Are these people like the student I “helped” whenever he needed it? Are they like the STD patients who know there will always be someone there to medicate them for free? Can a person hit bottom if we rush to place a safety net under him every time he does something stupid? Does a person feel he has a problem when there is always someone there to solve it for him? I hear so many express a desire to get things back to the way they were. But I am convinced that a person who has truly learned from a crisis does not wish to return to the circumstances, however pleasant they may have been at the time, which got him into the crisis. People who talk of “returning to normal” do not recognize and acknowledge what normal actually was.

And yet, I am deeply aware of the collateral damage. I will forever carry the memories of the children I saw living in hunger and squalor while their mothers “ran the streets” trading sex for drugs. I understood those children in ways many do not. My daughter has the family albums showing my brother and me as “very slim” figures during WWII in Italy; the occupying Germans stole all the nutritious food. I was three years old and standing in baby shoes; the occupying Germans stole most of the clothing. I’m nearing 80 years old and carry the effects of inadequately treated childhood Pertussis; the occupying Germans stole most of the medicines. So, no one needs to tell me to think of the children when considering the limiting or withholding of the safety nets.

So the classic “I hope he’ll be okay” when locking someone out of the house, and the “we do what we can do” when treating unnecessary diseases morphs into a new paradigm: By always jumping in and supporting people are we in fact preventing them from recognizing and acknowledging the problem, or must we let them hit bottom and accept the collateral damage?

Returning to “normal” would be the worst thing we could do. It was a fantasy built on unseen suffering for far too many, and a tragic cost to the environment that was far too much. Major changes are needed. But will a society addicted to a fantasy actually feel the need to change? Without hitting bottom? Is rushing to place safety nets the way to bring “spiritual awakening”?

This blog is read in many countries. I know I can speak for several of the regular commenters when I express the hope that we will be privileged with comments from those who have not yet done so. And, for everyone, thanks for what you do.

Lemmings

Lemmings

by Marco M. Pardi

The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass-movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the single-handed defiance of the world.” Eric Hoffer. The True Believer.

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Remember the lemmings? As a young boy I heard the myth of these small rodents racing en masse over cliffs to die on the rocks below. Each was driven by an impulse to suicide. Not being inclined to believe stories, I put that in my Maybe file. I was unaware of the fact this myth was centuries old and that some recent film makers had actually thrown lemmings off cliffs in making a film to further that myth. In fact deaths do occur during mass migrations, but not from suicide.

Another example of seemingly reckless behavior is found among the Wildebeests who migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti plain to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Most of us have seen films of them rushing across a river while crocodiles feast on the young, the old, and the infirm. But this migration is driven by climate, not despair.

Today, while the facts of incidental deaths during mass migrations are more commonly understood, the principle underlying the myth still points uncomfortably toward demonstrable tendencies in human populations.

In his 1979 book, Piercing the Reich, Joseph E. Persico recounts an episode I had heard several times before. An agent recruited by the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA) had successfully infiltrated into Berlin during the last months of WWII. As the city was being reduced to rubble by Allied bombers he asked a Berliner, “Why does the entire nation choose to commit suicide for the sake of one lunatic?”

The man answered, “It’s difficult to get the lunatic certified. He happens to be director of the asylum.”

Does this sound familiar? It should. Among several analyses by trained and experienced professionals a recent letter to Congress signed by over 350 psychiatrists, CIA Profilers, and other mental health professionals warned that the mental health of Donald Trump, titular President of the United States, is deteriorating rapidly and presents a danger to the United States. Another 37 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers said in a joint letter that President Donald Trump is unfit to be president.

“We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

It should be noted that these and similar letters and opinion pieces were written and publicized long before the Covid-19 pandemic and the related economic meltdown. That is, they were formed before Mr. Trump claimed the virus was a Democratic hoax intended to discredit him, that the virus would disappear in warm weather “like a miracle”, that wearing a mask was for sissies and ingested or injected bleach would clear out the virus. As of this writing the U.S. death toll stands at over 135,000, many attributable to the weeks long delays in any responses or actions taken by the administration charged with protecting the safety of the American people.

But while the administration advised us to “not believe everything you see or read” scientists and scientific institutions began finding their voices. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading Infectious Diseases expert in the United States – and much of the world, and the Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – CDC, emerged from scrambled first responses to positions of internationally recognized authority. CDC, a preeminent scientific institution always muzzled each time a Republican administration takes power, is regaining its voice in the face of outright lies spoken by a former game show host and repeated by the man who claims to be “President”.

However, the emergence of Dr. Fauci and the CDC is apparently threatening to this person, characterized by lifelong Profound Narcissism and Sociopathy. Whitehouse officials have acknowledged that a large part of Trump’s antipathy to Fauci stems from the much more favorable media “ratings” accruing to Fauci.

Yet, as of this writing the collated national polls show a disapproval rating for Trump of 55.6% and an approval rating of 40.3%. Some might take heart in the higher disapproval rating, but 40.3% is a far higher percentage than that of lemmings lost on a migration or Wildebeests culled by crocodiles. It strongly suggests that a major part of the electorate is unable to process factual information coming at them daily.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this is that getting Trump elected seems not to have been the primary focus of Vladimir Putin, rather it is the icing on the cake of sewing broad and crippling distrust in the democratic process itself. And who, after seeing what had been believed to be the least likely outcome of a democratic election held by mature and educated people, would not wonder that something had gone terribly wrong with the democratic process? Looking at the comprehensive economic and environmental wreckage and the hardened polarization among previously amiable co-workers, neighbors, and even family members, that’s got to be some cake Putin got.

By the way, for those who point to the pre-pandemic employment figures and the stock market, please realize those gains were made almost entirely by de-regulation of everything from the safety of your drinking water to the air you breathe and the products you buy and use, including previously somewhat safe food. And, look closely at the employment figures. When they are taken from employer reports they fail to recognize that two or three employers may have hired the same person; many people have two or three jobs due to the low pay and poor or absent benefits in any one of them. The stock market is not an index of how the economy is presently doing. It is an indicator of how the economy is expected to do. People buy stocks in a company on the expectation the company will increase its earnings, not on how the company is currently doing. In short, such investment is a gamble of investing in an imagined outcome. Look at the people who lost fortunes on the “dot-com” bust. How many lemmings went over that cliff?

Readers of this site know that I’ve written extensively of the development of Fascism in the United States. Interestingly, despite Donald Trump’s posturing and gestures imitating Mussolini, I don’t credit him with being intelligent enough to understand and follow an established system of political thought. To the extent that his expressed philosophy and actions do resemble those found in Fascism it is only an incidental resemblance provided by his truly Fascist handlers. So, instead, I credit the American Fascist Party of the 1930’s and early 1940’s which went underground during WWII and re-emerged in the late 1970’s with Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell as their chief puppet and chief spokesperson respectively. For background I refer the reader to Chris Hedges’ 2006 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the war on America.

I remember an advertising slogan from “Madison Avenue” that said basically, “A million people can’t be wrong!” Well, over 67 million people voted for Trump and other “Republican” party candidates. I’m no expert on lemming populations but this seems to be an unusually large wave eager to race over a cliff. Ordinarily I would stand aside and bid them farewell. But this wave threatens to take much of the rest of life on this planet with it. Like potential stock investors, we might examine this prospectus and wonder if this is a company in which we want to invest; is this a company with a future?

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